Monday, July 15, 2024

Interview: Mindy Kaling on the Unique Struggles of Melasma on Darker Skin

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Mindy Kaling has always invested in skin care. At first, it was with her time — over the years, she’s cultivated a multi-step routine from which she rarely waivers — and now, it’s with her money. The actor and producer is an investor in and ambassador for Lion Pose, a new brand that seeks to meet the unmet skin needs of people of color. To mark the launch of the brand into Sephora with its debut product, Unspotted 4X Dark Spot + Hyperpigmentation AHA Serum, we had a phone call with Kaling to talk about the disparity in dermatological care for people of color, how makeup helped her get into character on The Office, and why her five-year-old daughter is her biggest beauty inspiration.

SAG-AFTRA members are currently on strike; as part of the strike, union actors are not promoting their film and TV projects. This interview was conducted prior to the strike.

Allure: So many celebrities have found their way into the beauty business in one way or another, but this is the first time you’ve signed on with a brand. Why Lion Pose, and why now?

Mindy Kaling: I hear what you’re saying. There’s a lot of celebrities with their own lines, but what I think is different about this is that this is a line that existed and I’m an investor in it. I love this product so much I’m investing my own money in it. I’m so impressed by Nisha [Phatak] and Madhu [Punjabi] who are the founders of Lion Pose. They’re these two hyper-educated, young female Indian entrepreneurs who had had all these successful businesses in the past and they did a presentation for me.

The presentation is a presentation, but [when I started using] Unspotted 4X [with a blend of azelaic, glycolic, lactic, tranexamic acids], I loved it. I use it every day. I’ve always struggled with hyperpigmentation and I’m always trying to find products that help with my acne scars and dark spots, but that don’t also change my skin tone. I feel incredibly lucky that I’m someone who’s celebrated for my dark brown skin. And I did not want to change that. And so this is something that just really works for me. So that’s why I came on as an investor, not just as an ambassador or whatever. And I just selfishly wanted in on their success and I was lucky that they found room for me.

Lion Pose Unspotted 4X Dark Spot + Hyperpigmentation AHA Serum

Allure: You mention that you’ve struggled with hyperpigmentation. What has that journey involved for you?

MK: Well, if you have melanated skin, you have to be so careful about lasers. But a lot of times people who have melasma after pregnancy [for example] can do a simple laser and be fine with it. But I can’t do that because I keloid, which is another thing that happens to people who have darker skin. I’ve had to go to doctors and explain my keloiding issues to them because it’s so specific to people with darker skin. I loved that when I talked to Nisha and Madhu, they already knew about all these issues.

Allure: What do your beauty rituals look like today?

MK: I’m really worried about being really boring right now. So tell me if you’re like, “Hey, you’re getting too granular.”

Allure: This is Allure — go for it.

MK: Okay, good. So what I always do [first] when I take off my makeup is I use a hot washcloth, so I’m not using my expensive products to take stuff off that could have just been taken off with a cloth. Then I’ll do some kind of an oil-based makeup removing balm. Or if it’s not oil-based, it has that smooth, creamy feeling to take off most of my makeup. The one that I’ve been using these days is the Drunk Elephant Slaai. I also really like the Augustinus Bader cleansing balm. That one’s pricier so that’ll be like, if someone gives that to me for a gift for Christmas, my birthday, I’ll use that one.

Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser

Augustinus Bader The Cleansing Balm

Then I follow that up with an exfoliating powder scrub. So every stitch of makeup is off my skin. I don’t know whether this is some phobia I have, but the idea of going to bed with even a drop of makeup on is gross to me. So I do a double cleanse and then I’ll tone my skin and that’s when I put the [Unspotted 4X] serum on. I’ll wait a couple of minutes, send a couple emails, go do something with my kids, come back and put on a really moisturizing moisturizer, a little eye cream sometimes. I often forget eye cream and then go to bed. Before the Met Gala this year, I had a crazy hormonal breakout along my chin, and had lots of little hyperpigmentation marks from old pimple scars. So I was using the serum in the morning as well and then using a ton of sunscreen.

There are two different sunscreens that I’m obsessed with. Senté is great because it’s a tinted moisturizer that is actually tinted enough for my skin. Normally a tinted moisturizer is very chalky on my skin and it looks absurd. But with Senté, they have two different shades and the darker one blends in beautifully. And then the other one I love, it’s becoming a classic right now, is the Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen. It’s a super primer for makeup too.

Senté Invisible Shield Full Physical SPF 52 Tinted

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

Allure: Has motherhood changed your relationship to beauty?

MK: I don’t know whether it is just because I have less time, but I have really gotten the pattern of my evening ritual and my morning ritual down. I don’t spend a lot of time doing it, even if I have seven steps. Because what I just outlined is a lot of steps, but I can just do it quickly now. I think my skin has gotten better as I’ve had kids. I don’t know why. Maybe just because I know about more kinds of things and little tricks that I didn’t before.

Allure: Did you pick up beauty tips from working in front of the camera?

MK: Oh, my god, so many. I did 117 episodes of The Mindy Project. I was there from 6:00 AM as an actor and then would wrap and go into the writer’s room. We would shoot in July, August, and September, which are the hottest months of the year. [So] at lunchtime my makeup artist Cindy Williams would take a toner — an astringent-y, powerful toner for oily skin — and take off all my foundation. She would leave my eye makeup on because that takes a long time [to apply]. But she always let my skin breathe for that hour. And I’m telling you, it really saved my skin. I didn’t do that during The Office and I broke out so much more.

Kaling, seen here, says applying Lion Pose Unspotted 4X daily has “kept a lot of hyperpigmentation at bay.”

Courtesy of Lion Pose

Allure: Has beauty helped you get into character over the years?

MK: Oh, absolutely. Kelly [Kapoor, on The Office] was a customer service rep in a cubicle in a windowless office in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And she was always wearing statement purple eyeshadow and tons of blush and lots of mascara. We were really specific on that show about not having me do stuff that she wouldn’t have access to. So she wasn’t wearing eyelash extensions or fake lashes, but she would wear a ton of mascara or bold lipstick. She expressed herself with a lot of statement makeup. And I think that is what was so endearing about that character for me. Because Mindy Lahiri [on The Mindy Project] was a character who was a professional, an OBGYN, her makeup was slightly more refined, a little bit less Wet’n’Wild. Also because I was in my mid-thirties. But Mindy Lahiri did great hair trends. She was doing balayage and all kinds of big headbands…. It’s fun as an actor, as a woman who loves makeup and skin care and hair care, to be able to play these characters that care about those things. So even if I wouldn’t do balayage with my own hair, I’m like, sure, let this woman with her disposable income do it. She got to do a lot of fun, trendy things that I maybe would have been too shy to do [in my own life] and I appreciated that about the character.

Allure: I want to talk a little about wellness. Do beauty and wellness go hand in hand for you?

MK: I think my definition of wellness and beauty has evolved over time. In my twenties, I was definitely someone who thought that beauty was completely divorced from wellness and beauty was about the gaze of other people and trying to live up to that. And, also, a fun self-expression tool for myself. But there is no beauty without wellness for me now, at my age. If I eat badly, if I’m using the wrong products because I’m rushed, if I don’t take care to do the steps… So much of what makes me healthy is also, at my age, [what] makes me beautiful. I think they’re very interrelated now.

Allure: You’ve been vocal about body acceptance over the years and not needing or wanting to be quote-unquote skinny. And that’s meant a lot to a lot of people. Obviously you’ve undergone this wellness journey and some people feel like they’ve lost an ally. What would you say to them?

MK: It’s not super exciting for me to talk about my body and how it’s analyzed. So I think I’m just not going to get into it because it takes over the conversation unfortunately and people take it so personally.

Allure: What kind of lessons about self-love do you want to teach your daughter, especially growing up in this social media crazed world?

MK: She’s five so obviously she’s not on social media and she doesn’t look at Instagram or TikTok or anything like that. And I’m amazed at how much creativity in terms of how she wants to dress every day just comes from within. It’s not from any outside sources. She loves beauty and makeup. And it’s out of pure love. It’s painting her face — literally painting her face is what she thinks of it as. It’s not for the gaze of other people; she thinks it looks fabulous. For her birthday she was like, “Can I paint my face with your makeup?” And I’m like, “Okay, sure. You can do that on your birthday.” I don’t want people [reading] Allure to be like, “Wait a second, Mindy lets her five-year-old…” She does not [wear makeup]. She plays with makeup at home sometimes. She’ll play with makeup and we will just wipe her face off before we go out. But I just love how much she loves it. And it’s not [because of] peer pressure or anything else, it’s just because she thinks it’s so fun. And I really relate to that and I really try to emulate that.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Lion Pose Unspotted 4X Dark Spot + Hyperpigmentation AHA Serum is available now at and in-store at Sephora on August 28th.

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